Norway Official: COVID-19 Can Now Be Compared to the Flu as Country Removes Pandemic Restrictions
“It is 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime … Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference on Friday.
The virus can now be considered as one of several respiratory illnesses with seasonal variation, said Geir Bukholm, the assistant director for the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, according to local media. In Norway, COVID-19 has been classified as a generally dangerous disease, but the official classification could change soon, he said.
“We are now in a new phase where we must look at the coronavirus as one of several respiratory diseases with seasonal variation,” Bukholm told news outlet VG, referring to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“This is because the vast majority of those at risk are protected,” Bukholm said, referring to the country’s vaccination campaign.
Norway will no longer require businesses to implement social distancing measures, and it will also allow sports and cultural venues as well as restaurants to use their full capacity, the prime minister’s office said. Nightclubs can also reopen under the new guidelines.
“We have lived a long time with strict measures at the borders. This has been important in combating imported infections. When we now move on to a normal everyday life, the government proposes a gradual reduction of the restrictions on entry into the country. This will take place under close supervision,” Minister of Justice and Emergency Management Monica Mæland said in a statement on the government’s website, according to a translation.
The country will also allow restriction-free travel from some countries, namely from European nations, so-called “purple list countries,” and the United Kingdom.
Solberg had so far implemented the first three stages of a four-step plan to remove social and economic restrictions imposed since March of last year, but the final step was postponed several times amid worries over infection rates.
“In short, we can now live as normal,” Solberg said.
The prime minister warned, however, that those who do contract COVID-19 must still go into isolation to avoid spreading the virus. Some restrictions will still apply to those arriving from countries considered to have a high rate of infections, the government said.
Nearby Sweden earlier this month announced it will remove most of its COVID-19 restrictions.
An announcement from the Swedish government on Sept. 7 said that restrictions on public venues such as restaurants, theaters, and stadiums will be removed on Sept. 29.
“The proposal means that any participation restrictions that may be needed for public gatherings and public events with 15,000 or more participants should not apply if the system of vaccination certificates is used,” said the government’s statement. “This means that the organizer shall not be obliged to limit the number of participants in premises and delimited areas or spaces that the organizer has at its disposal if there are restrictions regarding this.”
According to the Norwegian Institute for Public Health, about 67 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.
Reuters contributed to this report.